Neil Robertson remained on course for his first ranking title of the season as he thrashed a despondent Ali Carter 6-1 in the semi-finals of the BetVictor European Masters in Austria.
Robertson is through to the 27th ranking event final of his career and will be looking for his 17th title on Sunday, which would bring him level with Mark Selby in sixth place on the all-time list. The 37-year-old Australian will face Gary Wilson or Zhou Yuelong over 17 frames at the Messe Dornbirn arena, with the winner to take the £80,000 top prize.
Prior to this week, world number five Robertson had not been beyond the last 16 of a ranking event this season, though he did win the invitational Champion of Champions in November. The former World Champion has looked sharp all week and was far too strong for Carter today.
Both players struggled to settle in a cagey opening to the match as the first three frames took 70 minutes. With the score at 1-1, Robertson crucially took the third on the colours, converting excellent pots on the brown and black in a 22 clearance. He made a break of 55 in the next to lead 3-1 at the interval.
Frame five came down to the last red and Carter was unlucky to narrowly miss an attempted pot to a baulk corner, leaving it in the jaws. Robertson missed the blue leading by 19 points but Carter, seeming to lose heart, elected not to play for snookers.
A run of 79 put Robertson 5-1 ahead. Carter led 62-0 in the seventh but couldn’t seal the frame, and a cracking long red set his opponent up for a match-winning 64 clearance.
Robertson is looking to extend his record of winning a tournament in event calendar year since 2006
“Ali’s mindset didn’t seem to be there from the outset, maybe it was a hangover from the Masters,” said Robertson. “I hope that’s what it was, rather than a health problem. It was difficult to play because a lot was going through my mind about what was going on. My concentration was all over the place. I just had to knuckle down, try to be as professional as I could and get the job done.
“It’s always a great occasion being in a final, I always enjoy it. I’ll be playing someone who has never won a ranking event before so he will be hungry. I’ll prepare as well as I can and if I play great I should get a good result, if I don’t play well I’m willing to grind it out as I did today. It was a great crowd today and I’m sure tomorrow they will get a brilliant match.
“I’m trying to win more ranking events, I’d love to get to 20 and if I achieve that I will refocus my goals.”